Zack Hess, LSU (Kendall Rogers)

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LSU’s Hess Finally Finds Right Mix

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HOOVER, Ala. — LSU ace righthander Zack Hess entered the season with sky-high expectations. He’d turned into one of the nation’s most feared weapons out of the bullpen for the Tigers last season. And with the departures of Alex Lange and Jared Poche, and the loss of righthander Eric Walker to a season-ending injury this season, he was going to have to be the savior for a team that had glaring holes on the mound.

Being in the limelight and the one isn’t easy. It’s challenging, and at a place like LSU, it guarantees that you’re going to get everyone’s best shot.

So, at times this season, Hess has struggled with that. Sure, he’s had his old-school Hess starts. But he’s also had some serious stinkers, particularly the two starts prior to Saturday’s dominant showing against Arkansas in a 2-1 win to advance to the SEC tournament title game.

Two weekends ago at home against Alabama, Hess allowed four runs on six hits in five innings. But the most concerning start came last weekend at Auburn. Hess struggled with his fastball and slider command, and he didn’t throw many changeups against the hard-hitting Tigers. The result? The LSU righty allowed five runs on six hits and was lifted after just three innings. He was downright bad.

That’s when Hess decided to go back to the drawing board. And it’s there, with pitching coach Alan Dunn, that he noticed one of his potential shortcomings.

“When you play in a league like the SEC, one of the blessings and one of the curses is that all your games are essentially on national television, so it makes scouting a lot easier for other teams,” Hess said after the win over Arkansas. “My last three or four starts, teams have done a great job of picking up my tendencies. And I feel like teams were kind of pigeon holing my slider and just sitting on the fastball.

 


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